Pretending to Be Thin No More

A few years ago, I ran into a packed restaurant in Brooklyn, breathlessly apologizing to my friends for being late, again. “It’s OK,” my one friend said, smiling. “We forgive you.”

“Yeah,” another friend chimed in. “If you tell us your secret to looking so thin all the time.”

I thought about it. I had been going non-stop since before the sun rose to get ahead at work.  And the truth was, I had forgotten to eat a speck of food since the afternoon before and was currently running on deli coffee fumes.

I was an editor at a large website, but the stress of running a team in an industry in turmoil was wearing on me. My relationships suffered, I barely ate from the stress of it all, and when I did, it was usually whatever I could find around my desk — stale candy, a spoonful of peanut butter, coffee, coffee and more coffee.

In short, I was scary skinny. And miserable. Hell, you could even say I was depressed. A lifetime of pressure was pushing down on me and I was close to breaking.

I was always a gangly sort of person. When I was little, my mom benevolently made me take ballet lessons so I’d know how to handle my long limbs. By high school, I traded my tutu for track shoes and enjoyed staying active and fit running mid-distance. The idea of “being skinny” over being athletic was something I learned from reading teen magazines. You were skinny so you could wear the jeans that the boys liked, you were skinny so you’d look good in a bikini.

At around 130 pounds at 5’10”, I thought I looked OK. But I thought that my life would be better if my hips jutted out a little more, so I dieted and worked out and the pounds melted off.

In college, it wasn’t as easy to maintain that kind of weight. So I, like many other co-eds, spent long hours at the gym, dragging myself to early morning spin class and late night pilates. I’d pretend I didn’t want that extra bread when I went out to eat with friends, even if I was ravenous. When I moved to New York, staying trim was simply social currency for working in lifestyle journalism, and stress played into that. Big time.  

And then a year ago, my doctor put me on a medication for some neuropathic pain I’d been having. As a fringe benefit, my meds helped with treating depression and my pain (both mental and physical) slowly ebbed away.

But with loss comes inevitable gain, and mine came in the form of weight. My skinny jeans would no longer button, oversized T-shirts didn’t look so oversized anymore and my thigh gap? Gone, gone, gone.

Rather than bemoan the loss of said thigh gap or spend all of my disposable income on fitness classes, I can say this with all certainty, I am the heaviest I’ve ever been, but also the happiest.

I left my high-stress job and found a new career path that I genuinely love. I started taking care of my body and my mind. I have time to go to more brunches with friends. Instead of subsisting on whatever sort of protein bars I squirreled away in my desk, I focus on nutrition and whole foods. I treat myself to dessert, because life’s too damn short.

In this whole process, I’ve put on a good 30 pounds, but it’s 30 pounds of happy times and treating my body with respect. 

With this realization comes the kind of sage advice your yoga teacher might impart at the end of a particularly good class: I was being skinny for other people.

But I’ve got news for you — this new weight is for me. No more pretending.